This week’s entry for Silver Threading’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday is from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
To join the challenge click the picture below:
This week’s entry for Silver Threading’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday is from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
To join the challenge click the picture below:
Welcome to another edition of Couch Convos with your girl, Lisa W. Tetting. Today we’re chillin’ with new author Cat Meyers about her compelling novel “Boy Toy”. Cat is a very busy lady who writes and teaches; and as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a lawyer. Let’s find out more about this fascinating young lady and her book.
LWT: Welcome to Couch Convos, Cat! Let’s get started. You make a living as an Assistant Professor at Temple University and you are also an Attorney. How did you find your way into the world of writing?
CM: Actually, writing found its way to me before I started practicing law or teaching. I had been in school for nearly the first 30 years of my life (including undergrad, grad school and law school); so I’ve written a ton of academic papers. And I hated it. My professors would complement my writing skills, but for me writing was just a means to an end. I got no joy from it. It wasn’t until my final year of law school that I wrote my first work of fiction. I had this story idea and I was so intrigued by it that I had to write it down. I noticed that whenever I felt bored or restless I started writing. I found such joy in creating new worlds and developing characters, that I was hooked.
LWT: Wow, you have spent a major portion of your life as a student, so tell us how long have you been teaching?
CM: I had been teaching on a part-time basis for about seven years, while working full-time in the private sector for a law firm in Philadelphia. I really loved teaching, so last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach full-time and I jumped at the chance.
LWT: That is a blessing. What type of courses do you teach at the university?
CM: I was hired to teach a writing intensive course called Planned Change & Criminal Justice. The university wanted to put more of an emphasis on improving students’ writing skills. I also teach Intro to Criminal Law, Courts & Criminal Justice, and Psychology & Criminal Justice. This fall, I’ll be teaching a new course for me called, Criminal Behavior.
LWT: As a professor in Criminal Justice, do you plan to write a crime thriller in the future?
I have some adult romance, YA, even a sci-fi in my treasure chest of future books. And I actually do have a crime thriller in the works, which I have written the notes for. I’m just waiting for when the time is right to sit down and write it.
LWT: If they are as good as “Boy Toy”, I can’t wait. On your website, you share an interesting story about finding some books in a box. Can you please share that story with the readers?
CM: It was during the summer before my final year of law school. I had never been a big fan of writing, but I had this story idea that I was intrigued by, so I wrote it down. I enjoyed the process so much, I kept revisiting that story. When the summer ended and school resumed, I put the writing aside and really didn’t think much about it after that. However, when winter break began, I found myself with the same urge to write. I found it so strange because more writing was definitely not how I planned to spend my break from school. Finally, one night when I was saying my prayers, I said: “Lord, every time I’m feeling restless I get the urge to write. What’s up with that?” He didn’t answer me at the time and I went on to sleep. The next day, when I came home, I saw this box in the lobby of my apartment building. Whenever people moved out of the building they often left unwanted items by the elevator for someone else to take. I like free stuff, so I usually stop to take a look to see if there’s anything I can use. This time was no different. I saw this shoe box that had some books in it. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the box had a message written on it: “To someone who will give these a good home.” Inside was a box of writing books: How to Write Mysteries, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, How to Write Romance; How to Write Christian Fiction and How to Write Action and Adventure. I thought: Surely God left these here for me. I scooped up that box and never looked back!
LWT: I am a believer in signs and that sounds like a major one. Your book “Boy Toy” focuses on an abused teenage girl who is placed in the foster system. How did you use your experience as a former social worker to write your book?
CM: I drew upon my experience as a social worker to discuss the procedural stuff, i.e. the mechanical inner-workings of the foster care system in Pennsylvania. I also called upon my experience to talk about the dynamics of the relationships between the foster parent, foster child and natural parent. Foster parents often express frustration that all they want to do is provide a good home for the child, and sometimes find themselves in the role of the bad guy in the eyes of the foster child. “I’m not the one who abused her or abandoned her, why does she take it all out on me?” was a common concern they would raise. Natural parents sometimes feel hostility toward the foster parent because they feel like the foster parent is trying to take their place; and guilt because the foster parent has been able to do what that natural parent has not been able to do, so far—take care of their child. Finally, even if the natural parent has abused or neglected the foster child, that child often feels a loyalty toward their natural parent. Many long to live with their natural family even if they know it is not a safe environment for them. They also experience guilt if they come to love their foster family because they feel like they are betraying their natural family. So there is a lot of tension and conflict in these relationships, some of which I’ve tried to portray in the book.
LWT: I believe you did just that. When your protagonist is in turmoil, she learns to turn to God for help. What prompted you to make this her path instead of turning to drugs or something worse?
CM: As a survivor myself, I could only write about what I know has helped me. I’ve been in that place of such emotional pain and thought: “Man, I could see why people get hooked on drugs.” It would be so easy to take something, a pill or inject something and just be able to escape. Leave that pain behind me. But I also knew that when the drug wore off the problem would still be there—as well as some new ones on top of that, due to the drugs. I just figured it’s better to face it head on and deal with it. The amazing thing about God is, once I surrendered that pain to Him, He was able to replace it with His peace. The Bible calls it “Peace that surpasses all understanding.” Having peace, when by all rights, you should be on the verge of losing your mind.
LWT: That’s very deep. Please explain what you mean when you say “Boy Toy” is your love letter to girls and women who got off to a rough start in life?
CM: I think for those of us who’ve experience rape or other forms of abuse, or were abandoned by one or both parents, or experienced some other setbacks early in life, it is not uncommon to come to the conclusion “I am not loved, not valued. That there must be something wrong with me, otherwise my father wouldn’t have left; or God wouldn’t have let me be abused…” Even if we don’t think it consciously, it may be a belief that operates on our subconscious. Whether it is a conscious or subconscious belief, it can have a tremendous impact on our lives, influencing our choices, our sense of self-worth, relationship decisions, career choices, even the choice to engage in high-risk behaviors, and other things that can have lasting consequences. I found many of the girls I’ve known through my social work days or personally, struggle with the concept that they are loved, valued and therefore, entitled to the best that life has to offer. I feel like God put this story in my heart to remind me, and others like me, that we are loved. We are not damaged goods. In fact, He has loaded us with all kinds of gifts and abilities, as well as a tremendous capacity to love and be loved. We are not forgotten or invisible. In fact God has great plans for each of us. All we have to do is believe it
LWT: Being a survivor of sexual abuse, why is it so important for survivors to not be labeled as having a ruined life?
CM: Imagine if I were to come to your house for a dinner party, and brought along a beautiful chocolate cake. Except, just before I handed it to you I said, “I should warn you, it’s been ruined,” what would you do? How likely are you to set it on the table, and serve it to your guests? Would you be more likely to tuck it away in the kitchen to keep it away from your guest,s and then throw it in the trash after everyone goes home? Perhaps you would be adventurous, and take a chance on the cake. You taste it, and discover that it’s not ruined after all. It was actually very good, and you were so glad that you gave it a chance. It was the label “ruined” that told you everything you needed to know about that cake; and therefore, how you would treat that cake. The same happens when we deal with people. When you hear the words “her life is ruined” or “she’s damaged goods” how do we respond? What are our expectations for that person? Even worse, what are that person’s expectations for herself? If she thinks her life is ruined is she going to set her standards high? Is she going to dream big? Is she going to believe she deserves to be loved, and in loving relationships? It all comes down to our perception. Keep in mind the content of that cake did not change. It was what it was when I gave it to you. The label said “ruined” so either it was perceived as ruined, and set aside to be thrown away later or someone said, “I don’t care what the label says, I want to give it a chance anyway”; only to find it was the best cake ever. Sadly, when it comes to people most of us are not that adventurous, and could be missing out on something really special.
LWT: That is the best analogy I have ever heard for this situation. Now, in “Boy Toy”, Toya goes through several different stages of emotions. Explain why it was necessary for you to show this range of emotions?
CM: I really wanted to take the reader on a journey. Toya was a complex person with complex issues. As a child in foster care, due to sexual abuse, she was not just dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. She was also dealing with abandonment, separation from her family, the stress of moving from foster home to foster home, on top of all of the normal pressures, and changes that come with adolescence—the transition from girl to womanhood (school, sexuality, relationships, career decisions, etc.). As women, we’ve all had to go through this transitional phase—and most of us had our own additional stressors on top of it (even if it wasn’t abuse). I think it’s something we can all relate to in some way. That’s why, I believe, many of the adult women who have read this book have also been able to connect with it.
LWT: There was a definite connection for me. Tell us, what does the butterfly leaving a cocoon symbolize for Toya?
CM: Toward the end of the story, Toya says that she would never get a tattoo, but if she did get one, it would be the image of a butterfly leaving a cocoon. That is how she saw herself. For so long in her in young life, she felt shrouded by the weight of her past, which masked who she really was—it even masked who she really was from herself. Now, with the help of her new family and friends, with God’s help, she was finally starting to emerge from all of that darkness from her past—her cocoon. Like a butterfly, she was finally starting to blossom into her full beauty. The beauty of her personality, her gifts and talents, and the bright future ahead of her. It was undeniable. Everyone could see it, even Toya.
LWT: Your Pinterest page is very inspiring. What prompted you to make it like a scrapbook for “Boy Toy”?
CM: I was in the process of setting up my website and went online searching for ideas for things to include in my website. I came across this article: “Yes, Fiction Writer Can Develop Awesome Online Platforms, Too” by Lorena Knapp on the website, The Write Life. The article includes a ton of creative ways fiction writers are growing their readership. As an example, it pointed to fantasy author Justine Musk, who makes use of Pinterest as a “planning tool for her next novel.” Since I am a Pinterest junkie, I took a look at it and loved it. For a future book it can be helpful to generate images of things that you want to write about, which helps develop your idea and gives further inspiration. Then after the novel is finished, readers can look at those images on Pinterest and see what the writer envisioned or was inspired by. For example, Boy Toy, there’s a scene where Toya had bought a very sentimental gift for her mother, completely forgetting that her mother didn’t have a sentimental bone in her body. So she had to scramble to find a gift that really spoke to her mother in her native language: MONEY. Toya took her savings and gave the money to her best friend Dwayne to find the perfect gift. He came back with an expensive pair of thigh-high, stiletto, black, leather boots. Toya called them “hooker boots,” but her mother adored them. In searching for the boots on Pinterest, I was blown away by the variety of thigh-high leather boots out there: from the conservative to the out-of-control. In re-reading that portion of the book, it added a whole new level of imagery to my mind as I read about those boots and I hope it does the same for readers too.
LWT: Well your page definitely inspired me to update my Pinterest Page, and I have found it helpful when developing my stories, as well. Why did you name your blog “My Front Porch”?
CM: I had never blogged before, and I was struggling to think of what I would blog about. I thought about the things I enjoy writing about in general, and realized I enjoy writing about being a woman. No offense to men, but I love being a woman! And I think there is so much we can learn from each other. I think some of the best times for me, as a woman, is sitting down on the porch with a hot cup of tea on a cool, fall afternoon; or cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s evening, and just talking. Talking about everything from hair care to heartache, and everything in between. It’s where we let our guards down and connect with each other on the common ground of womanhood. I hope that people of all ages will come and share their own wisdom on my blog.
LWT: That is a nice way of looking at life and I think we need to do more sitting on the porch and talking to each other. In your bio you mention your goal is to visit as many beaches as you can. How many have you visited so far? Which ones?
Sadly, I’ve only been to 11 so far. I grew up in South Jersey so I spend a lot of time on the beach in Wildwood. I’ve also been to Stone Harbor, Long Branch and Ocean City. I had an amazing time in Myrtle Beach. In California, I lived right down the street from Venice beach, which I visited as often as I could. But also spent many wonderful days on the beach in Santa Monica, Long Beach and Malibu (breathtaking). Outside of the country, I’ve basked in the sun on the beaches of the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic and never wanted to leave either one. So as you can see, I still have my work cut out for me.
LWT: Indeed, but that’s the fun of it all. Let’s switch gears a little and focus on the business side of writing. Not only do you write books, you write plays. How does the writing process differ?
CM: For me, the play-writing process is a little easier, though it does have its challenges. For play-writing, I don’t have to be nearly as descriptive. In fact, I really only provide enough detail to serve as a road map for the actors and production team (me) to follow. I don’t want to provide too much detail because I want to leave room for the actors to interject their own creativity into the characters. For fiction writing, you have to be much more descriptive. The reader won’t have a stage to look at as the story unfolds. The pages of the book become the stage, so I have to paint the scenery, design the costumes, and portray the characters expressions with my words. The challenge then comes in not just describing but bringing the words to life.
LWT: There is a bigger difference than I realized. Besides novels and plays, do you have plans to write any other genres? If so, which ones?
CM: I’ve written screenplays. In fact, I moved to LA to sell my screenplay, and learn about how things work in “Hollywood.”. I LOVE movies; and I love writing screenplays too. I didn’t sell that screenplay—yet. But I did write a couple of short films (which were produced by some very good friends who are actors). I am confident that one day those screenplays will make it to the big screen. I believe God gave me those stories for a reason. And I’ll always treasure my years spent in LA.
LWT: That is very exciting. It is also a dream of mine to write a screenplay, sell it and see it come to life on the silver screen. Tell us, as an indie author, what has the publishing side of writing looked like for you?
CM: The publishing side of writing has been exciting. As a creative person, all I really want to do is write. I really don’t want to be dealing with marketing, copyrights and royalties. Just let me write. But the lawyer in me recognizes that this is a necessary part of the process. I also like having some degree of control in the decision making that comes with being an Indie writer. Having control over how my book will be marketed, priced, even the cover art, has been very empowering. Thankfully, there are so many other Indie writers out there that are willing to share their resources and lessons learned, which has made this process much more doable.
LWT: I have also found some great authors willing to help. What challenges have you faced along the way?
The biggest challenge I faced as a writer has been perseverance. When you write fiction, you put so much of your heart, soul and time into that book. You spend hours crafting the perfect query letter and researching publishers and agents, and then just put it all out there. Only to be rejected. In many cases, you get the sense that the person didn’t even read your next great novel. I say this not as a critique against agents and publishers: their time is limited and there are a lot of manuscripts out there for them to review. I say this to indicate that sending little bits of yourself out there and getting rejected can take its toll. If writing were dating, there would be a whole lot of lonely, single writers out there. Who could put up with all that rejection? There was a time when I stopped trying. I loved writing, so I was content to write and it didn’t matter to me if anyone ever read anything that I had written, just as long as I got the chance to create new worlds through my words. Then I realized that I was just playing it safe and my God is too big for me to be playing it safe. He wants us to be fearless, to trust Him and see what He can do with even just a little bit of our faith. So I’m back to putting myself out there. If I’m discouraged, I remind myself that it only takes one “yes” to change my whole world. Just ask JK Rowlings or Theodor Seuss Geisel (author of the Dr. Seuss books) and other great writers on literaryrejections.com, to see how many famous authors went through the rejection phase before finally breaking through.
LWT: I am glad you stuck with it. What was your editing process like?
After I finish writing, I put the book aside for a while: a few days or weeks, depending on what else is going on in my life, then come back to it, and edit with a fresh set of eyes. I didn’t have the budget to hire someone to do the editing, but I have been fortunate to have teachers, secretaries and other lawyers in my life, people that have good writing skills and attention to detail, who have volunteered to do some editing for me as well. It doesn’t matter how many eyes have reviewed a piece, multiple times, mistakes do slip through the cracks. It’s just a trick of the human brain that tries to help us out by fixing our mistakes for us in our minds instead of pointing them out to us.
LWT: Please give other indie writers 3 tips that you learned and used during this process?
CM: 1. Let as much time a possible pass between each reread, so that the piece is as fresh and new to you as it possibly can be, and the mistakes will stand out.
LWT: I believe professional editing is worth the money and there are some reasonable ones out there. Share one unique thing you’ve done to market your book?
CM: I can’t say that I’ve done anything unique to market my book. However, I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas of things I can try. Like I said before, thankfully there are many writers out there who are willing to share their ideas, which has been a big help.
LWT: That is exactly why I started doing these interviews. I want indies to learn from each other. Tell the readers the one resource you can’t live without as a writer?
CM: Thesaurus.com. Since we deal in words, it is a writer’s best friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck for the perfect word to express an idea, just sitting there staring at the screen hoping the word will leap off the screen. I go to Thesaurus.com and Eureka! It’s there, the piece to the puzzle I had been looking for and I can get back into the flow.
LWT: That is a great tool. Name 3 writers who have influenced your writing style?
It’s hard to say what writers have influenced my writing style. I can’t say that I consciously try to emulate anyone’s style in my writing. I can say that I have read a lot of books and I have very eclectic taste in books: I love YA, sci-fi, mysteries, fantasies, legal thrillers, historical fiction, Christian fiction, etc. After reading this question, I went back to my Goodreads account to look back at some of my favorite authors who really stood out to me for their writing style. For example, I love Dean Koontz, because of his pacing. He is a very patient writer; and willing to take his time to allow the story to simmer and then come to a rolling boil. I admire Mark Zusak (the Book Thief), because of his excellent use of language. I find his writing to be imaginative and his ability to turn a phrase is very clever. Finally, I love Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter for the same reason. They both have the unique ability to create protagonists that are so flawed that you’re not quite sure you can always root for them, but you are also so intrigued by them that you can’t put the book down. In both authors’ books, I often find myself saying: “Aw man! I can’t believe she/he just did that!” and in the same breath I’ll say: “But hey that’s real. That’s what people do.” I love it!
LWT: That’s what makes a book a good read. What does success look like for you?
CM: Success for me, is sitting on the deck of my dream beach house with my true love, writing another book, inspired by the ocean, the sunset and the first stars appearing on the horizon.
LWT: That sounds like heaven, not success. Lol. What’s up next for Cat?
CM: I am currently process of re-writing my book, “Run Away Love”, which is the first book I ever wrote. It is so deeply personal to me, that I never really thought about publishing it. Yet, I revisit it from time to time and it always speaks to me. I’ve just recently come to the conclusion that if it speaks to me, maybe it will speak to someone else just as much. So I’ve decided to just put it out there. I also have the crime thriller I mentioned earlier that I want to get started on. Finally, I have two plays to produce. I usually produce a play during the summer months, but I took off this summer to focus on my novel. I’m looking forward to getting back into the theater next summer.
There you have it. Another episode of Couch Convos in the books. To find out more about Cat Meyers, please visit her author website and reach out to her on social media at the links below. To purchase her book, Boy Toy click the book cover below:
Author Website – catmeyers.com
Twitter – catresameyers
Pinterest – Catresa007
This morning I received an email from a fellow blogger and author who just recently read my book, The Mistreatment of Zora Langston. She loved the book and that made me happy, but as I continued reading I received the best compliment ever! She compared my book to The Bluest Eye by legendary author Toni Morrison! I wanted to scream and shout, but that would have scared my poor cat.
This compliment gave me the jolt I needed to get motivated to write this morning. Thank you so much Kendra! Kendra is from the UK and her review posted on the Amazon UK site; click here to read the complete version.
Today is the final day of May, and all month we have been honoring Mental Health Awareness Month here at Rebirthoflisa. For my final entry of the month on this topic, I would like to address a theory that has been floating around since the 1950s, and that is Racism is a Mental Illness. We’ve discussed the impact of stigmatism in the community and how it hurts people who suffer from any form of mental disease. A quote I posted in my #wcw challenge from Adam Ant alludes to the fact mental illness is the final taboo and needs to be addressed. Well this is my contribution for the month.
Growing up a black female in the South, you would automatically expect I would have faced many issues with racism, but you would be wrong. From the time I was in first grade and through college, I went to school and mingled with people from all backgrounds. Of course the differences were noticed, as they should be, but I can honestly say no one was discriminated against based on the color of their skin; at least not to my knowledge. People tended to gravitate toward others who shared commonalities like sports or fashion, but everyone was accepted. I played sports and my teammates and I were always welcomed where ever we traveled and the community embraced us.
I never experienced out right racism until I was an adult in my early 20s. I was working as a lead cashier in a grocery store and this lady wanted to write a check, but had no id on her. Store policy prohibited me from taking the check because there was some fraud going on in the area. I had my instructions “NO EXCEPTIONS”! Well at that time in my life I was a stickler for rules, so that meant nobody was giving me a check without the proper identification. We required a picture id and no starter checks were accepted. Well it just so happened this particular customer had no id and a starter check. There was no way I was putting my initials on that check and accepting it. I checked her out and her groceries were bagged when she started writing the check. I asked for her id and she immediately said she did not have it. Well, I was no fool who writes a check and doesn’t have id? Looking at the check, I noticed it was a starter check and she had only written in her name; no address or phone number. I nicely informed her that I could not accept a starter check and I would need id to accept any form of check. Long story short the lady tried to use her status as a lawyer to bully me into accepting the check. When that didn’t work, she began using racial slurs that made my ears bleed. (Not really, but they should have) At first I was shocked and appalled that anyone would be brazen enough to talk like that; especially a so-called lawyer. Of course I read about racism and heard stories, but not until I experienced it with such fury, did I understand the pain and shame that goes along with it. I remember thinking to myself, “Why would she say such things to me when I was just protecting her? What if someone had stolen her checks and was trying to pass it off? She would have been extremely upset that her bank account was empty. Why would that cause her to use such hateful language?” I didn’t fully understand in my 20s, this being my first bout with racism. I was trying to rationalize her behavior, but what I didn’t realize was there is nothing rational about racism.
It is my belief, all people are similar creatures. We have the same hopes and dreams no matter what culture we grew up in. Everyone has the basic need to be loved, understood and appreciated for the gifts they bring to the table. Every individual is unique and must be treated as such. People cannot be lumped into a category because they look a certain way. Stereotypes are one of the worst things ever thought up by humans. They all stem from a small truth about a couple of people in a certain group, but then they become the poster behavior for a specific race or culture. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina in the projects. Most people would stereotype me as being ghetto and violent, with at least three kids by three different men and uneducated. I should in fact have low self-esteem and live off of welfare with no future to speak of. I should have no ambition and no appreciation for culture. In fact, I went to college, albeit on a basketball scholarship, was on the honor roll each semester and have grown out of my combative stage most of the time. I am now a beacon of positivity who loves museums, all genres of music and love to read and learn new things. I have no children, and have been married to the love of my life for close to 15 years. I am so not the stereotype some people would believe me to be. My personality contains bits and pieces of the stereotype, but I am so much more.
I am not alone in this. Everyone is complex and we all have layers to our personalities. If racists could understand this concept and really appreciate each person as the individual they are, the world could be cured of this terrible, debilitating disease. Racism is like diabetes in a since. It is caused by what is being fed to you. If you absorb all of the negative traits about the one person you know of a different race, you will get sick. However, if you consume the nutrients of positivity and get the whole picture, you will start healing the disease.
Since racism is an illness, it can be cured. Here is my prescription:
If we all stop trying to be better than one another and realize we are stronger working together than apart, we could really make an impact in annihilating this disease. Won’t you help spread the cure?
“It’s my time”, I called out to Mistress Mary. She was looking scared to death, but then she turned bright red and anger took over.
“This little bastard better be black as night Pansy or I’m gonna kill it.” Miss Mary whispered in my ear.
It wasn’t my fault her husband, Massa Barren kept sneaking in my quarters after dark and taking advantage of me. I was in love with James and we wanted to jump the broom, but Massa Barren denied us. He threatened to kill James if he saw us together so we made sure he never did.
“No Miss Mary, please don’t kill my baby!” I pleaded.
The pains came quicker and grew worse with each minute. I tried my best to hold that baby in because I knew it wasn’t from James. Mama taught me to be a modest lady, and I would not allow James to bed me until I was his wife. When I popped up in the belly, I had to tell him the truth about Massa Barren. I would have taken that secret to my grave, but there was no hiding it, I was with child. That baby was coming and even though it cost me the man I loved, I still wanted it. I had been sold away from my mama and papa when I was twelve and I knew I would never see them again. I could never leave my child on purpose and I would not let anyone take my baby from me.
“Pansy, I know you’ve been with my husband and this baby better not be his.”
Panic set in and I tried to get up to run. My legs would not hold me and I was trapped here under the care of a woman who hated me and just threatened to kill my almost born child. I loved my baby and I would do everything in my power to save it.
I started praying “Oh Lord, please save my child from this wicked woman. Touch her heart Lord and let her see my baby had no choice in how it came to be. Let her have mercy and give my baby to me.”
My prayer was almost begging and I was crying and screaming from the pain. Finally I pushed her out and to no one’s surprise a white baby with beautiful hazel eyes and straight hair looked at me as she took her first breath. I reached for her but before the midwife could hand her to me, Miss Mary said “Don’t you hand that thing to her. It’s an abomination and it must be killed.”
My baby girl started crying as if she knew what was about to happen. Everyone in the room began to panic as Miss Mary snatched my baby from the midwife’s arms, held her upside down by her feet and slit her poor little throat with a knife.
“Here’s your demon child”, she said as she tossed my baby at Massa Barren’s feet.
I screamed and cried and crawled to my baby. She looked so beautiful as her body lay still on the attic floor. “Clean up this mess. I don’t want that thing’s blood staining my floor. Every little drop of my baby’s blood was emptied onto that attic floor and I would not allow anyone to touch it. In that moment I was entranced. My baby’s blood served as energy and I bathed in it.
Massa Barren yelled at me, “Pansy now you stop this. Get up from there. Somebody do something.”
I kept rubbing the blood all over me. I needed to feel it on me. Then I heard this loud chanting that seemed to come from the walls of the attic, the floorboards and the furniture. It was surrounding me. The chant was in a language I had never heard, but somehow I knew what they were saying. I started chanting too.
“ Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna!”
Over and over again I chanted the foreign words, faster and faster the chants rang out. The room started to spin and I was in the center, covered in blood. It was as if I left my body and was hanging upside down on the ceiling staring at the show down below. The midwife ran from the room screaming “She done gone soft in the head!”
All of the other slaves ran leaving me in the attic to grieve. They were deathly afraid of me and refused to come into the attic even when faced with whipping. I stayed in the attic for six days and nights chanting away. When Massa Barren had enough of the deathly smell, he sent the overseer to the attic with some male slaves to drag me downstairs and bury my baby. I was forced to take a bath and wash my child’s blood away from me, but by that time it had done the trick. I no longer needed the physical blood as it had seeped into my soul.
“Charlie I want her cleaned up and get one of the house girls to clean out that attic. It stinks to high heaven in this house because of her. You bury that baby out in the slave cemetery and mark it. The poor thing didn’t have a name so just place a cross on the grave.” Massa Barren instructed.
I screamed and kicked and fought the men until they threw me into a big barrel of hot soapy water. Then two women I have never seen before tore the dress off of my body and began washing me.
“It’s gonna be alright chile. God got your baby now. Ain’t nothin’ can hurt her no mo’. She the lucky one”, the one lady said and the other broke out into song.
“God got your babay, yes He do. He got her on His lap and she waitin for you. You almost left us but it ain’t your time. Don’t let the devil take your mind.”
The first lady joined in and they sang that song over me the whole time they scrubbed me clean. When they were finished washing and dressing me they combed out my hair and took me to the grave to see my baby one last time. I wrapped her in a cloth my mama had tied on me when they took me from her. When the first shovel of dirt hit her little body, I screamed in pain. The pain I felt was from every mother who ever lost her child and the sound bellowed from the depths of Hell!
Days went by and then weeks, but my longing for my baby girl never stopped. I named her Oni which means born on sacred ground. Since slaves were not allowed to read and write, I went to the cemetery after dark and carved her name into the wooden cross Mr. Charlie placed on her grave. As I was leaving her I saw a light in the cemetery and I was drawn to it. The sacred ground was filled with chanting and I began chanting too
“Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna!”
Then before me appeared a sexless figure who informed me it was my duty to protect all the babies born to this plantation. It was up to me to ensure they were never taken from their mamas. No other mother on this plantation would ever feel the wrenching pain of losing a child. The figure handed me some herbs and instructed me on what to do.
The next morning I set out to fulfill my purpose. I got water from the river just where the turtles sunned themselves. I mixed the water with the herbs and crushed them with a rock to make a paste. The whole time I was working I was chanting
“Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna! Choluma, Tonari, Olanhna!”
Then I went to the well pretending to draw water for Miss Mary, but instead I deposited my potion. There was a flash of light at the bottom of the well and I kept chanting. Then I heard the dark figure from last night say, “It’s ready.”
I drew water from the well and proceeded to take it into the house for the white folks. Everyone got their water from this one well so I knew everybody on the plantation would drink my potion.
Instead of doing my usual house chores, I decided to take all of the field hands some water; especially the women. They couldn’t get enough of that water.
“This some mighty fine water, Miss Pansy. Where yall get it from? Surely, not that old well.”
“It’s plain old well water.” I answered.
“For sho’?” they replied.
When I was finished with my rounds, I went back to the house to make sure all the ladies in the house had some too.
“Oh chile, I sho’ was thirsty. Thanks you Miss Pansy. You know Miss Mary don’t let us take no rest.”
“I know, but she don’t mess with me no more so I do what I want. If you need water, then I will bring it to you.” I boasted.
It was true, every since she murdered my baby, Miss Mary had taken ill and blamed me. She would not come within two yards of me and would not allow me to handle her food. I did however, handle her water and she drank it plentiful without knowing.
Several months passed since the well incident and no one was getting popped; a very unusual occurrence around Barren Plantation. There was always a slave girl being bred to the biggest, strongest male slave so they would have plentiful slaves around, but that changed. Since Oni was murdered, no other births had taken place on the plantation. The girls, who thought they were popped, simply got their monthly and they thought they were mistaken; No one was more than three months along.
One night Massa Barren hosted a dinner party and I heard his guests discussing the lack of babies.
“Now Sam, the whole region is buzzing about the lack of babies coming out of your plantation. Did you put a ban on your slaves?”
The room filled with laughter and then Massa Barren replied, “No, nothing like that. We are breeding them as much as possible, but nature is not cooperating.”
More laughter continued and then the mean lady with the pointed nose said, “I hear tell this place is cursed!”
The room went silent. All the servants knew to keep their eyes frozen to the ground and their ears wide open. We listened as the lady spun a tale of the curse of the murdered baby. She told my story as if I had not been standing there except she was missing some of the reason why. The white folks imagined it was only a punishment to Miss Mary for killing my baby, but it was a punishment for all dead babies.
Miss Mary was enraged, “What kind of woman have you brought to my home, Sam? She has been raised with no manners, no manners at all. Who would dare partake of a host’s food and then shame them with the same breath. I want you out of my house! Right Now!”
The lady with the pointy nose stood up with a slight grin on her face and said, “What’s the matter sugga, too afraid the tale of the murdered little baby will spread? I’ll leave, but you remember this; the truth will set you free.”
In an instant the party was over and Miss Mary was on a tirade. “I want you gone and don’t ever show your face around here again. What trash you have brought into my home Sam. Just trash. Imagine the whole district spreading such lies about such a fine lady as me.” She cried and she ran upstairs from shame.
I could hear Miss Mary wailing all night long about her poor reputation. She said nothing about the poor baby whose life she spilled on the attic floor. The next morning she demanded to see me in her bed chambers, the very place I had been forbidden to go since the murder.
I entered cautiously, “You wanted to see me Miss Mary?”
“Yes Pansy, come in here. I have a question I want to ask you”
I came inside the door as she beckoned me to come closer. “Shut the door Pansy and come over here.”
I had no desire to close the door, but it wouldn’t matter anyway, she killed Oni in broad daylight when the door was open, so why did she want the door closed now? What more could she possibly do to me? If she was planning on doing me the favor of slitting my throat, I wanted her to know I welcomed it. I was no longer timid, I slammed the door and marched right up to her. The time was here for us to have the long awaited showdown. I could hear the other slaves gathering at the door to listen.
“Who’d you tell about that abomination you bore?” Miss Mary inquired.
“I told God about my baby, Oni if that’s what you mean. My child was no abomination.”
“Don’t back talk me girl. I have no patience for it today.”
I looked her dead in the eye, “I will say whatever I please and you won’t do a thing to me you haven’t already done.“
Miss Mary was shocked at my sharpness and said, “Listen to me you witch, I know you’ve been spreading rumors about me killing a poor innocent baby, but that thing was a creature straight out of Hell.”
I slapped her across her face leaving my hand print behind. “Don’t you ever speak of my child like that again. I love Oni and she was a beautiful child even after you took her life. It’s not my fault your husband can’t keep his hands off of me, but I never wanted him. He forced me and I got popped. I was in love with a man, but he forbade it and then used my body for his pleasure. If anyone is an abomination it is Massa Barren!” Finally, I let the words that had been burning in my throat leak out. There was no going back now.
“I don’t believe you gal. All you little slave girls run around here just waiting for your chance at Master Barren. You are a seductress and a whore!”
“Believe what you want, but your husband is a liar a thief and a molester. I curse you, him and this whole ungodly place. Till the end of time, there shall never be another baby born to anyone who dare come to this plantation; slave and white, visitor or resident. Anyone who crosses the gate of Barren Plantation either by force or willingly will suffer the “Barren Curse! No woman will birth another baby and no man will produce one. Your evil bloodline will end with you! From this day forward all people unable to have children shall be known as Barren.”
With those words I walked out of the room as Miss Mary clutched her chest in agony. She fell to the floor and died. That was some forty years ago and this plantation is just about give out. Massa Barren went broke and tried to sell the slave, but no one would but us. Once he died, those of us left stayed on to run the plantation for ourselves. Nobody dared to come onto the property so we found our freedom in a way. We had animals and vegetables and the water we needed to survive and were grateful the curse did not cover the animals. They drank the river water so they were never infected. I still visit Oni’s grave everyday and wait for the day I will see her again. Until then I remain Barren.
This is part 2 of a new Southern Horror Series I am writing. Please check out my Pinterest site for a visual scrapbook.
As I sit here reflecting on my life I see things so clearly, now. Where was that clarity when I needed it? I am currently locked away in this dank and dirty hole in the wall with dozens of other former slaves who are touched in the head. The so called doctors keep me locked away from the rest of the residents, which is a blessing because I am not really insane. I just needed a break from reality for a little while. I think I will be ready to go out and find my way in the world soon. At least that’s what Dr. Richards says. He told me it would help for me to think back to when I started having the feelings of rage and hate; I think I found it. For a former slave, the feelings of rage and hate came when I took my first breath. Almost everything in my life to this point has made me want to go inside of myself for a while and just hide. Let’s see…
I was born into a world of poverty and despair, but there was just enough hope to keep me going. Hope was a gift given to me by my papa before he was murdered. In fact that is my name. There is no doubt about it; Papa had enough hope for the entire world, in his little finger. I wonder what it would have been like living in his head. I wish I could have jumped in there and run around for a while. We were close, him and I, but sometimes he drifted off into another time and place. My mama called it “checking out”, and I was not allowed to bother him when he was like that. Sometimes he would talk out loud when he was “out”. At first it scared me, but once I sat still and listened to what he was saying, it all made sense somehow.
The older ladies on the plantation said, “Yo papa is touched, little Hope. You stay way from him when he like that. It’s such a shame such a fine looking man is battling demons in his head. ” For some reason the ladies were afraid of him; as if he would hurt me if I got too close. What they didn’t know was my papa was the gentlest man on the Jones Plantation, and nobody was going to keep me from him, except maybe Old Massa Jones. He owned us, so he got to do whatever he wanted.
“Come here child” he demanded of me. “Yes Master Jones?” I said with the urgency of a snail. I hated being called over for one of his senseless talks. He never seemed to want anything except to stop me from working, and then complain that I wasn’t working. “Girl, don’t you ever call me Master. My name is Massa Jones. You hear. Don’t go using that fancy talk your mammy and pappy done teached you. I don’t want no educated slaves round here.” I conformed to his will, “Yes Suh, Massa Jones.” It was always like that with him, he just couldn’t stand the fact my parents were educated Negroes and taught me how to read and speak English better than he could. That’s the chance he took by stealing a free man and enslaving him. My papa could read and write with the best of the scholars. One day while he was walking home from a lecture, he was kidnapped and forced into slavery. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a man who was born free to have his most treasured possession taken away from him and being forced to submit to the will of a man with half his intellect. I came to the conclusion, this was the reason Papa started “checking out”.
All of the ladies on the plantation, even the white ones, had eyes for Papa when he wasn’t “checked out”, but he only had eyes for Mama. Miss Cynthia was the worst one. I heard her talking about Papa one day with her friend Miss Jenny, “He’s just so muscular and tall. I wonder how it would feel to be held in those big ole black arms of his.” Miss Jenny almost fainted, “Cynthia I can’t believe you would say such a thing. Why he’s nothing but a beast. He’s dark as midnight and those big hands would crush you to death. You better hope your brother don’t hear tell of you liking him.” “And how, pray tell, will he find out; unless you plan on divulgating my private secrets. If I had a friend to do that it would be just shameful. I might have to tell all of her ungodly secrets to anyone who would listen.” Miss Cynthia threatened. “Besides,” she continued, “he is just about the best looking Negro man I have ever seen. Just look at that wavy hair and that broad chest.”
Just then Miss Cynthia spotted me spying on them and snatched me up. She threatened to whip me until I bled if I told anyone. I acted dumb, as usual. It was my way of not having to do what the white folks wanted me to. I would pretend not to understand what they wanted until they would give in and leave me be. “Now get out of here. Your services will no longer be required in the house. Since you want to act like one of them, you can just pick cotton like the rest of your people.” Just like that I was removed from being a house servant, and sent to the fields to toil and sweat in the sun. I did not mind because I could finally be with my parents all day. I no longer had to put up with the beatings from Miss Cynthia just because the wind blew or the strange looks from Master Jones. For some reason he had taken a liking to me, and was always trying to get me alone. Miss Cynthia had noticed, and has hated me every since. She had been waiting for any excuse to remove me from the house and now she had one.
“Why did she put you out of the house, Hope?” mama asked. “Mama I don’t know,” I lied. “Well she had to have a reason, and you’d better tell me right now!” Mama had a certain way of talking that meant business. If I did tell her she might get mad and fight Miss Cynthia, but if I didn’t tell her I would get the switch. Just thinking about that switch made the flood gates open. “She was lusting after Papa and I heard her. When she caught me spying she got mad, and made me leave the house for good.”
“What you say child? She got eyes for my man? Well I’m gonna show that heffa who she’s messing with. She’s not getting my man lynched because she wants to know him.” Mama went on and on about Miss Cynthia liking Papa, and then my life changed forever in less than five minutes. Mama marched right up to Miss Cynthia on the grand front porch; the very one all field slaves were forbidden to approach. Before she had time to react, Mama spit dead in Miss Cynthia’s face and said, “You best stay away from my man, white woman.” “Helen you must be out of your mind to approach a fine white lady with some nonsense about her liking some big, black buck.” She was guilty and would have let Mama off with a warning, but Mama would not drop it. “Hear me good woman; nobody slides up to Henry Jones, but me! Try me if you got the notion.” Miss Cynthia face looked like it was melting off under the sweltering Carolina sun. Her hands started shaking, and she did not know what to do. Nobody dared to talk to the owner of a plantation like that, especially not a southern belle like Miss Cynthia. Miss Jenny was so mad there was smoke coming from her ears, Cynthia are you just going to sit there and let that slave girl talk to you like that on your own porch. I wouldn’t stand for that kind of sass from any of my slaves. They would get the whip for sure.”
Just then Old Massa Jones came outside to see what the ruckus was. “Helen what is going on round here? I can hear Miss Jenny screechin’ all the way in my office.” Mama looked him dead in the eyes and told him “Keep your sister away from my husband! My child heard her talking lustful about him, and I don’t want my man lynched. You better keep her in her place or I’ll do it for you.” I always knew Mama didn’t play when it came to Papa. She had beat Julie so bad she couldn’t walk, for rubbing up on Papa one day. Even so, I never thought she would talk to white folks like that. She must have lost her mind and Massa Jones was going to help her get it back. “What you say to me Helen? You forget I am the massa ‘round here and you the slave. Can’t stand for no back talk from no slave, even if it is you Helen.” Mama did not back down. “Do what you got to go, but keep that woman away from my man!”
The next thing I knew Mama was sailing off of the porch, and landed on the ground face first. She tried to get to her feet, but Massa Jones was quick to knock her back down. With his boot in her back, he began to whip Mama with his walking stick. Then I heard Papa running and screaming, “Get off of my wife, you devil!” The next few minutes were in slow motion. I could hear someone screaming, but I didn’t realize it was me until Massa Jones yelled at me to shut up. Massa Jones was beating Mama senseless, and she was broken and bleeding from every inch of her skin, her ears and eyes. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I could see her skin being peeled back with every lick of Massa Jones’ stick. Eventually Mama stopped screaming and went limp. “She ain’t dead yet, throw some water on her,” Massa Jones called to one of the new male slave. The sting of the water hitting her open flesh was enough to jolt Mama awake. She could barely whimper, but her face showed the pain was too much to bear. The merciless beating continued until almost all of the life drained out of Mama. With her dying breath she told me “Remember who you are Hope and never let them kill you. Be strong and honor your ancestors.” With that she was gone and I wanted to go with her.
Meanwhile, two other men were holding Papa back with ropes, while Massa Jim, the overseer, got his shot gun. Massa Jim pointed his gun at Papa and said, “Get back in that field and get to work. You need to make up for Helen’s share so you better get humpin.” Those horrible men would not even allow us to clean Mama up, and bury her. They let her lay in the hot sun attracting bugs and smelling to high heaven. Massa Jones forced Papa and me to continue picking cotton with Mama baking less than 100 yards away. As sad as I was, I could see Papa was almost uncontrollable. He kept talking to Mama and telling her he was there, and he would honor her. I saw a crazed look in his eyes, not like when he “checked out” this was different.
Henry Jones was the son of a warrior, and he must avenge the death of his wife. Papa started pacing back and forth and mumbling something in the old African language he taught me as a little girl. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but I knew it was never good for him to start chanting in the Orangolo language. Papa retrieved a machete he was hiding in the field, and cut Massa Jim’s head clean off his shoulders. The hot blood splattered all over the pure white cotton staining the ground and Papa’s hands. “HELEN!” papa yelled so loudly everyone stopped what they were doing to see what was going on. He bent down and picked up the severed head holding it in the air he shouted, “They Kill my wife I take their life.” With those words Papa charged through the field and struck down every white man he saw. He was headed to the porch on the big house when I heard the loud crack press through the air. Massa Jones was standing on the porch with his rifle and tore a hole through my Papa’s chest. Just like that I was an orphan.
I stood quietly in the cotton field drenched in blood. I had not noticed before, but it was all over me, in my hair, on my face, and my clothes. All of a sudden a blood curling scream came from the depths of my being and I could not be silenced. “Chile, it’s alright chile. Please stop screamin’ or Massa Jones gonna come over here an git ya. Please chile don’t make it worse fo yoself.” Old Miss Janie pleaded with me, but there would be no peace today; not after they just killed my family. I stopped my screaming and started laughing. Old Miss Janie started backing away from me. She told the other slaves, “I seen this before. She done gone mad.” All of the other slaves in the field followed Miss Janie and backed away from me while mumbling to their selves. I was mad, but not the insane kind. My anger had crossed over into my being and everything I would do from this point on would be my revenge on the Jones Plantation.
I closed my eyes and remembered the last words my mama said to me “Remember who you are Hope and never let them kill you. Be strong and honor your ancestors.” When I opened my eyes I could see my ancestors standing before me along with my parents. They told me I was the last in our bloodline and I must survive. I would have their protection as I navigated through life. Right now, I was being instructed to exact revenge for my parents’ murders. I must use my brain and outsmart them because they would be looking for me to become violent. I listened to the instructions, and remembered them exactly. I allowed the wisdom of the ancestors to guide me. “You must act like you are sick from grief. The lady of the house will take pity on you, and invite you back in to work there. Once you have re-established yourself as a servant, you must be on your best behavior. At the dawning of the full moon, you go into the woods where your papa took you to pray. Under the big tree with the markings you will find an herb growing. Gather the herb, but mind you do not let it touch your skin. Use a cloth to gather it. Chop the herb up and put it in the white people’s food. It will paralyze them and once you are sure they can’t move you must chop each one of their heads off and hang them on the front porch, covering yourself with their blood. Do not swallow their blood! Nobody will harm you because we will be there to protect you. You will be taken to a hospital and once you are released, you will have your freedom!”
I followed the instructions of the ancestors to the letter. The cook came down with severe stomach pains, so Miss Cynthia informed me I would be cooking alone. The ancestors came to me and guided my hands. The herbs were placed into the potatoes once they were cooked and mashed. Everyone loved my mashed potatoes so I knew they all would eat extra helpings. Once they were unable to move, I went to work using the same machete Papa has used to avenge Mama’s death. I started at the head of the table with Massa Jones, no hesitation just a quick slash of the sharp knife and his head rolled onto the floor. The rest of the room was horrified. I could see it in their eyes. They may not have been able to move their body parts, but they were fully aware of what was happening. I took pleasure in torturing them one by one. Each slice of a throat was righting a wrong done to my ancestors. I saved Miss Cynthia for last since, after all she was the one who started this downward spiral. She watched one by one as everyone she loved was violently snatched out of existence. “This is for my mama”, I said as I slid the sharp blade across her pale throat. “If you would not have been lusting after my papa, none of this would have happened.”
As instructed I hung the severed heads above the front porch, covered myself in blood, and waited for someone to discover what I had done. Papa had already killed the overseers and they lay dead in the cotton field. No slave wanted to bury them, and there was no one left to make them. When the other slaves saw what I had done they cheered and celebrated. I convinced them to help me give my parents a proper burial, and then most took off for the North to snatch their freedom. To buy their silence I wrote them all freedom papers using Massa Jones’ stationary and wax seal. The few that remained were too scared to leave and decided they would run the plantation until a new white master came along. I sat on the porch and waited for three long days. When they finally came to see why Massa Jones had not been seen in the area, they were scared out of their minds. The news spread fast about the insane slave girl who slaughtered all of the white people, and hung their heads from the porch. Dr. Winston came and would not allow them to hang me. “She is obviously touched in the head. Let me take her to the state mental institution for Negroes and get her the help she needs.” Dr. Winston was a well respected member of the community so they did what he said.
So now I sit here waiting for the doctors and nurses to say I am ready to leave here. The ancestors still appear to me every day, and I listen to them. They have not let me down yet. “Soon you will be released from this hell and before those white folks can lynch you, we will guide you to the North and Freedom. Nobody will know what happened here and you can start your life over. You’ll get married, have two beautiful children, and teach them about your family history all the way back to the Orangolo people.” I wonder what my husband will be like. What kind of life will we build together? For now, I Hope and wait.
© Lisa W Tetting
I hope you enjoyed reading Mind of Hope as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please check out my accompanying Pinterest page for a photo scrapbook of the story.
The Strength of a Lioness flows through your veins.
“I can handle anything even this loss of my beloved.
I will draw on my inner strength” you tell yourself.
Sometimes you are too strong for your own good.
That’s when your body takes matters into its own hands.
At times when the grief is too much to bear alone.
The strength will manifests itself in different forms
Sometimes it breaks out into tears, before you can hide them. (It’s OK to cry)
Other times strength shows as a smile, as deceitful as it is. (Remove the mask)
Empty words fill the air and friends are told I am fine, I don’t need anything. (They know better)
The words fall on deaf ears, and friends keep watch from afar
When real dialogue forces itself from the depths of your throat
Because you can’t hold it in anymore
Your friend is sitting, waiting for your call.
In the meantime, she continues to reach out, even if you can’t respond. (She understands)
She is always there waiting with a listening ear, a sympathetic voice,
And a heart full of love for you.
She’ll wait however long it takes.
In the meantime, it’s OK to cry and remove the mask,
Because friends know better and understand.
© Lisa W. Tetting
Welcome to another edition of Couch Convos with your girl, Lisa W. Tetting. Today we’re chillin’ with the one and only Chantelle Anderson. Miss Chantelle, as she is affectionately known, is a beautiful spirit who has found her way to Visible Confidence, and wants you to do the same. She is a former WNBA player, turned college coach, turned sales rep, who learned through trial and error how to harness the power of confidence you can see. In her debut book titled, Visible Confidence, Chantelle gives up the 7 steps she took to get there.
LWT: Welcome Chantelle and thank you for chatting with me today. Let’s start with basketball… I’m an avid Tennessee fan and I remember playing against Vandy during your stint. Let me just say, I was happy when you graduated. Lol. In your book you quote the legendary Pat Summitt, so you obviously have love for her. Why did you choose to go to Vanderbilt instead of crossing over to the Orange side of the state?
CA: Hi Lisa! And thank you for having me! Yes, I definitely have a ton of respect for Pat. It’s actually kind of a funny story. When I was coming out of high school, there were two schools in the top 25 that didn’t recruit me: Tennessee and Old Dominion. I didn’t care much about ODU, but I was kind of offended that Tennessee didn’t want me because, I mean, they were legendary. So when I went to Vanderbilt and had to play them a bunch, I promised myself that I was going to make Pat wish she had recruited me. Haha. I always wanted to show out against them. It all worked out in the end because Vanderbilt was a much better fit for me than Tennessee would have been.
LWT: And show out you did. I’m sure Pat asked her staff how they let you get away. Having such a great college career, as a 3-Time All-American, explain the feeling you had when your college jersey was retired?
CA: Man that was a great day! It was surreal. As I watched them unveil it, I couldn’t believe that was my name up there. It was a goal I set freshman year before I ever played a game and so to have it come true was really special.
LWT: I can only imagine how great that felt. After college, you went on to have a successful career as a professional player. What do you miss most about the WNBA?
CA: I miss being part of those moments that feel bigger than life. And there’s no place in the “real world” where screaming and chest bumping after something good happens is ok, Lol. I miss that too.
LWT: I can just see that now, going into a sales meeting after a great forth quarter and chest bumping your co-workers while screaming in their faces. That might garner a visit to HR. LOL. I’m not even sure if you are aware of this, but in 2011 therichest.com voted you to their Top 10 Sexiest WNBA Players of All Time. As an intelligent woman who empowers others, how does that make you feel?
CA: Ha-ha. Someone pointed that out to me when it came out. I mean, I was flattered. I’ve always resisted being put in a box by people. I resist the idea that you can’t be sexy, smart, classy and empowering, all at the same time. These days I definitely play down the ability to be sexy though, just because it doesn’t really fit my platform. I never want my looks to distract from my words. But yeah, still flattered.
LWT: I admire your platform and the way you carry yourself. Why is Women’s Empowerment important to you?
CA: Women’s empowerment is important because there are times in my life when I’ve felt powerless. I think those are unavoidable, but I also believe we can’t let them kill our spirit. My goal is to inspire and equip women to fight when they feel powerless too!
LWT: You came up with a plan that will help women with this issue. Explain the “Have it All Plan” to our readers.
CA: The “Have It All Plan” was something my sister, Kristin, and I came up with in High School. Instead of being one-dimensional people living one-dimensional lives, we decided we could be smart, pretty, successful in our careers, and have fulfilling relationships, all at the same time. It goes back to not allowing anyone – even ourselves – to limit us by putting us in a box. It’s something I’ve always tried to live by.
LWT: That is a great sentiment, especially for someone so young. What does your “Have it All Plan” look like?
CA: My “Have It All Plan” is constantly evolving. At the foundation is the ability to love God, be me, work hard, and have fun. And I want to be surrounded by people I love and who love me in return. Sounds simple, right? Ha-ha.
LWT: Exactly, now, when you were an Assistant Coach at Virginia Tech you had the honor of presenting during a TEDx event. Share with us what that process was like?
CA: It was awesome! They asked for submissions and then picked about 20 people from the 200 or so they received. I was honored to be part of a series I respect so much. After being chosen, we had several rehearsals where we got feedback from the group on how to make our talks better. I had a blast!
LWT: You looked like you had fun in the video. The crowd received you very well. Please explain is the story behind the title of your blog, “Call Me Miss”?
CA: Honestly, the name is one of those things that God just dropped in my mind about 3 years ago. I was looking for something that conveyed respect, class and strength, and there it was! It made complete sense because my online persona is Miss Chantelle.
LWT: Won’t He do it? Well. Miss Chantelle, can you speak on how Lisa Leslie changed your outlook about yourself?
CA: Lisa was a role model for every tall, feminine athlete who wanted to stay true to themselves and still play ball. From the outside looking in, she embodied the “Have It All Plan.” She showed me I could be everything I wanted to be because she already was. It’s like giving someone permission to dream about something they feel has to exist, but have never seen before.
LWT: That is a very powerful gift Ms. Leslie has shared with tall girls. Let’s switch gears for a minute and speak about someone as powerful, but not necessarily using her “power” for the “Greater Good”. Last year there was a little, shall I say, controversy on your blog over a Beyonce concert you wrote about. Spill the tea on why the Bey Hive came for you?
CA: Lol. Uh yeah, about that… I posted a picture calling out “Christians” for worshiping Beyonce as she “repeatedly reps Satan in your face.” Lol. I often say things in a way that provokes feelings, either positive or negative, and that was an example of it. I got called all kinds of things. But if we’re being real, no one who has ever read the Bible and is being honest can say Beyonce represents God. And I hate to say it but there’s only one other side. There’s no third option. (I undoubtedly just pissed off some of your readers…).
LWT: You may have, but most of my readers are usually open- minded. I know your faith is very important to you. Can you tell us how you felt when you found out there was a church dedicated to worshiping Beyonce?
CA: It made me sad. We as people were made to worship God. That’s why it’s so natural for us to worship. Unfortunately we fill His spot with all kinds of other things, including people. Beyonce is amazingly talented but she didn’t create the universe.
LWT: Amen to that. I attribute it to people having a hole somewhere inside that needs filling, and they are misguided. Some turn to violence, others turn to worshiping deities and then you have those who turn to violence and bickering. On your blog you touch on this a little, please tell the readers your opinion about young girls fighting via social media.
CA: I wrote that blog after watching two girls fight over a guy on twitter. It’s just messy. If you have to tell another girl to stay away from your “man” on social media, you have a problem. Never deal with her when you really have a problem with him.
LWT: That is a great segway into your book. Explain to the readers what Visible Confidence is?
CA: Visible Confidence is the kind of confidence that everyone can see, and that doesn’t come off with anything you can take off. Visible Confidence is also the title of my first eBook! On social media I often talk about how I used to be super shy and self-conscious. One day someone asked me how I got over my issues, so I wrote her a quick, 3-page to-do list on how to be confident. I started to get that question more often so I expanded it into an eBook of practical things I used during my own process, and still use every day. I wanted it to be a resource that people could apply to their lives.
LWT: Without giving too much away, briefly tell us a few of the 7 steps to get there?
CA: Well, the first chapter is called, “Get a Divorce.” I talk about a bunch of things to help us divorce the fear we all feel going through life. Another important chapter is Chapter 6: Define Love. It discusses how our definition of love has a direct impact on our confidence level. I think my favorite chapter is Chapter 7: Unpack Your Heart. It’s probably the most practical of all, talking about how we can intentionally heal from the inside-out. Without the practicals in chapter 7, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
LWT: The book is chock-full of great tips and concepts. What is the “No Rules, Just Principles” concept?
CA: Ha-ha. It basically comes from the fact that I’m a rebel at heart. Give me 5 rules and I’m going to try to break every one of them. I think a lot of us are like that. But if we can develop a system of principles, it then becomes a lifestyle instead of a list of “can’t-do’s.” It makes decisions a lot easier, and I don’t feel like I’m fighting myself so much, as I try to live the right way.
LWT: In the book you talk about choosing role models for various parts of your life. Who are your role models for style and life?
CA: I do have different role models for different areas of my life. One is my spiritual mentor, Elizabeth, for her wisdom and Biblical knowledge. Gabrielle Union is my beauty role model, though I need to work out a little more to keep up with her, ha-ha. My manager at work, Jessica, is a terrific example of the kind of leader I want to be. And I love what Heather Lindsey of Pinky Promise has been able to do from the standpoint of a global woman’s ministry. The Bible talks about imitating different things from different people so I try to do that.
LWT: In Visible Confidence you tell a touching story about this phrase “If there is a question about it, the answer is probably no.” Please share that story with us?
CA: Sure! A couple years ago I was checking into a hotel one night and there was this girl in front of me who was trying to decide if she wanted to get a room with her date after a school dance. She looked really conflicted about the decision. So when he ran back out to the car for something, I told her, “if there’s a question about it, the answer should probably be no.” She ended up posting that phrase on her Facebook page and making the decision to go home alone. I was super excited but have no idea who she was. Lol.
LWT: Indeed you helped her to make the right decision for her that will last a lifetime. You are a walking, talking billboard for Visible Confidence. How has that affected your book sales?
CA: Thank you. I’m not sure though…
LWT: Can you tell our readers, what your marketing plan looks like?
CA: Really, I didn’t have a marketing plan for my book. I promoted it on social media, but haven’t done much else. Being my first book, I challenged myself to put my heart into writing it, which I did, hoping to have it to offer anyone who needed it. I didn’t really put a ton of effort or resources into marketing this book. However, I am putting more effort into my upcoming project, Call Me Miss, so ask me in about 6 months. Lol.
LWT: 6 months it is. Lol. Explain to us what Call Me Miss is all about?
CA: Call Me Miss is a lifestyle brand that I recently launched. The goal is to inspire and impact women’s lives through faith, empowerment and growth. It is built on the “Have It All Plan” and highlights that there is no way to truly have it all without a loving relationship with God. The response I’ve gotten so far has been great, including a feature in Madame Noire Magazine, and I’m excited about what’s in store!
LWT: That sounds amazing and I can’t wait to see it all come together. You are such a fabulous public speaker, are you doing any speaking engagements to promote your work?
CA: Thank you. I spoke at a Women’s Day to promote it a few months ago and I have 3 speaking engagements in the next couple months lined up for Call Me Miss.
LWT: You also have a new Facebook page “Call Me Miss” that has daily graphic updates and videos. How do you come up with your topics?
CA: Either something I’m personally going through, some advice I gave a friend who asked, or I have a list of sayings that I have already written. I make the graphics each week in advance and adjust if I’m inspired by something different.
LWT: I have to ask about your font on your website, because it is so unique. What is it? Why is it your favorite? And how can my readers get it?
CA: It’s called Miss Lankfort. I like it because like you said, it’s so unique. As soon as I saw it I felt like it fit Call Me Miss, and I offer the download on my website as a gift to my readers.
LWT: In addition to the many hats you wear, you host Brunch’N in Houston once a month. It is a great idea so please share what it is and how it came about?
CA: Thank you! My church is huge on missionary work and sending out mission teams to spread the Gospel all over the world. So I wanted to throw an event I could use to support that cause. I also meet a bunch of awesome people from all different walks of life in Houston. So I wanted something that connected people to others they might not naturally meet. The two needs met and Brunch’N was born!
LWT: For those of us not in Houston, how can we eat, vibe and connect?
CA: Right now it’s a local event. But if someone wants to host a Brunch’N in their city, we can definitely talk! I anticipate expanding to other cities at some point.
LWT: Networking is a key component in selling books. Outside of Brunch’N, how do you network?
CA: I think the most important part of networking is the willingness to talk to strangers anywhere you go. I talk to everyone, whether I’m at the grocery store or a specific networking event. Based on the conversation, I’ll invite them to church, Brunch’N, or connect for a potential business opportunity. I also go to a ton of events around Houston. I love live music and spoken word, or events put on by the National Sales Network, which I’m a member of. One of the coolest events I found recently was Dinner Lab. Check it out. It’s perfect for meeting new people and I loved it!
LWT: Thanks for the tip and I will definitely check it out. What are your thoughts on crowd funding? Would you ever try it?
CA: I did it before starting Brunch’N to raise money for mission work. I think it’s a great way to give people in your life the opportunity to support something you’re passionate about.
LWT: What is the main thing you want readers to get from your book?
CA: I want them to gain the ability to take control of their own confidence process, and get rid of their insecurities from the inside-out.
LWT: Tell us what success looks like to you?
CA: The ultimate success for me is becoming the woman God wants me to be. Since I don’t know exactly what she looks like yet, I’m just following Him day by day, trying to do the best I can with what I have. That may sound corny to some. But I just want to love God and help a lot of people. However that happens is fine with me.
LWT: Well, I’m a cornball at heart so I love it. What does your ideal career as an author look like?
CA: Well, I love my job in sales now. So I don’t know what being an author will look like. Whether it’s my main job eventually or stays on the side, I want to have impact through speaking, writing, and one-on-one mentoring. I’m building a faith and empowerment brand in Call Me Miss. Everything will branch off from that based on need.
LWT: Will you be writing a memoir anytime soon? I for one would love to read it.
CA: Thank you! And I will. It’s actually already written. I had a publishing deal for it a few years back before becoming a college basketball coach. Once I started coaching, publishing it wasn’t an option. Now that I’m out of the coaching world, I’ll publish it as soon as I feel it’s a good time. It’s been on my mind lately. As you can see, my plans are pretty fluid. I work better that way.
LWT: That is very exciting about the publishing deal. What’s up next for Chantelle?
CA: I am currently working on my “Dear Miss” video series. I release a new video blog every Monday on my Call Me Miss Facebook page and YouTube Channel. I have a Call Me Miss Teen Empowerment Camp in Houston in June, and a couple speaking engagements during that time also. I’m just doing my part to build and seeing where God takes it.
Well, there you have it folks, another Couch Convo in the books. Chantelle is a fascinating lady with the world at her feet. God will lead her in the right direction and she will continue to spread His word.
For more information on Miss Chantelle, please check out her website and social media pages. To purchase her e-book, Visible Confidence, click here to go to Amazon.
Facebook – callmemissbymisschantelle
Twitter – misschantelle
Instagram – misschantelle
YouTube – CallMeMissWeb
About Me – misschantelle
Just a quick post to introduce my latest venture. If you’ve been following me, you know I recently started a love affair with hosting Author Interviews. My first crack at it was with Author Tinzley Bradford and I enjoyed it immensely. As a result I decided to make this a regular feature on my blog! I will also be sharing the interviews on my Author Website. The next edition will be available tomorrow with Author Chantelle Anderson! Please join us for the latest on Visible Confidence! #lwtcouchconvos
Just your average PhD student using the internet to enhance their CV
Breaking Free From The Past, In Hope For A Bigger & Brighter Future
Welcome to my world!
A book boyfriend for everyone
Novels that leave us breathless
Welcome to Kip Walkin. The site for inspired & original poetry, quotes, articles and stories....as products of Pen on Paper!
Life is just a story. And I've got a pen.